Perth’s oldest building has the unique claim of being the key place where religion, education and the law were truly born in the young colony. Before the Old Court House was opened in 1837, a temporary ‘rush church’ on the corner of Hay and Irwin Streets had doubled as a place of worship and court. This tradition of multiple use was continued when Perth’s civil engineer, Henry Reveley, was tasked with designing “a suitable building as a court-house which could likewise be appropriated to the uses of a temporary church”. He drew up plans for a simple building with a distinctive Doric entrance, and construction started in 1836.
Opening on Good Friday, 24 March 1837, for worship, the Old Court House started hearing law cases the following morning. Everything from a boy charged with stealing a melon to a man suspected of murder were all held in the one place. Sometimes the school which also used the room had to be interrupted if an important case was to be heard. From 1905 to 1964 the Arbitration Court was held there, after which it became the offices for the Law Society of Western Australia. From 1987 it has been The Old Court House Law Museum which is open to anyone who wishes to explore Western Australia’s fascinating legal past. Visit the Old Court House Law Museum to learn about the legal traditions and social history of Western Australia through interactive and hands-on exhibitions.